Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert could well score an upset in the Best Actress race at the Oscars for her critically hailed turn in “Elle.” Should she prevail over frontrunner Emma Stone (“La La Land”) — or if Ruth Negga (“Loving”) were to come out of nowhere to take the race — she’d be the 13th winner of this award that was the sole nominee from her film.
In the earliest years of the Oscars, it was not uncommon for a leading lady to reap her film’s only bid and then prevail on awards night. Indeed, the second-ever Best Actress champ — Mary Pickford — did just that when she prevailed for portraying a southern belle in “Coquette” (1928). Two years later, Marie Dressler did the same when she won for playing innkeeper Min Divot in “Min and Bill” (1930). Helen Hayes and Katharine Hepburn did the same over the following two years – for “The Sin of Madelon Claudet” (1931) and “Morning Glory” (1932), respectively.
In 1935, Bette Davis did likewise when she won her first Oscar for playing a troubled young actress in “Dangerous.” Many, including the actress, regarded this as a consolation prize for being snubbed the year before for her acclaimed turn in “Of Human Bondage.”
After this run of five Best Actress winners in seven years being the sole representatives of their films in contention, it would be 22 years till it happened again. The year was 1957 and Joanne Woodward, portraying a woman with three different personalities in “The Three Faces of Eve,” won the Best Actress race. Four years later, Sophia Loren achieved the same feat for her harrowing turn as a woman protecting her daughter during World War II in “Two Women” (1961).
Again, there was a long period when the Best Actress winners hailed from pictures also up for other prizes on Oscar night. It was not until 1988, the year of Jodie Foster’s victory portraying a rape victim in “The Accused,” that the category’s winner was the only nomination for her picture. Two years later, Kathy Bates’ chilling turn as the deranged Annie Wilkes in “Misery” (1990) emerged triumphant and four years after that, Jessica Lange, as a free-spirited beauty suffocating from life on a military base in “Blue Sky” took home her second career Oscar.
Since Lange’s victory, two others have claimed the Best Actress Oscar without other recognition for their films – Charlize Theron, in her startling turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” (2003), and Julianne Moore, as a linguistics professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in “Still Alice” (2014).
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